1776 De Anza founds San Francisco
Juan Bautista de Anza, one of the great western pathfinders of the 18th century, arrives at the future site of San Francisco with 247 colonists.
Though little known among Americans because of his Basque origins, Anza's accomplishments as a western trailblazer merit comparison with those of Lewis and Clark, John Frémont, and Kit Carson. Born and raised in Mexico, Anza joined the army when he was 17 and became a captain seven years later. He excelled as a military leader, displaying tactical genius in numerous battles with the Apache Indians.
In 1772, Anza made his first major exploratory mission, leading an arduous but successful expedition northwest to the Pacific Coast. Anza's expedition established the first successful overland connections between the Mexican State of Sonora and northern California. Impressed by this accomplishment, the Mexican viceroy commissioned Anza to return to California and establish a permanent settlement along the Pacific Coast at San Francisco Bay.
Although seagoing Basque explorers had sailed along the northern California coast during the 16th and 17th centuries, the amazing natural harbor of San Francisco Bay was only discovered in 1769. The Spanish crown immediately recognized the strategic importance of the bay, though it would be seven years before they finally dispatched Anza to establish a claim there.
Anza and 247 colonists arrived at the future site of San Francisco on this day in 1776. Anza established a presidio, or military fort, on the tip of the San Francisco peninsula. Six months later, a Spanish Franciscan priest founded a mission near the presidio that he named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi-in Spanish, San Francisco de Asiacutes.
The most northerly outpost of the Spanish Empire in America, San Francisco remained an isolated and quiet settlement for more than half a century after Anza founded the first settlement. It was not until the 1830s that an expansionist United States began to realize the commercial potential of the magnificent natural harbor. In the wake of the Mexican War, the U.S. took possession of California in 1848, though San Francisco was still only a small town of 900 at that time. With the discovery of gold that year at Sutter's Fort, however, San Francisco boomed. By 1852, San Francisco was home to more than 36,000 people.
The founder of San Francisco did not live to see it flourish. After establishing the San Francisco presidio, Anza returned to Mexico. In 1777, he was appointed governor of New Mexico, where he eventually negotiated a critical peace treaty with Commanche Indians, who agreed to join the Spanish in making war on the Apache. In declining health, Anza retired as governor in 1786 and returned to Sonora. He died two years later, still only in his early 50s and remembered as one of greatest Basque trailblazers and soldiers in New Spain's northern borderlands.
Friday, March 28, 2003
There is a picture that shows a moment that I will never forget, the moment that the flag bearer started swirling the Ikurrina a very special energy materialized in that place, bonding all of us together, it was pure magic.
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Tuesday, March 25, 2003
Commentary; Spain Crucifies Basques Under a 'Terrorist' Placard; Madrid seems to think this odious label justifies persecution of a people.
The Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles, Calif.; Mar 14,
2003; Mark Kurlansky;
Time passes; labels change. That great scourge of the 20th century, anti-communism, is now called anti-terrorism. It remains a label designed to generate fear and to make any abuse permissible.
On Feb. 20, the Spanish government closed the newspaper Euskaldunon Egunkaria, the only one published in Euskera, the ancient Basque language. The police arrested 10 people -- most of the staff of the tiny operation, including the editor. Accusing them of aiding the violent Basque nationalist group ETA, police sent the 10 to Madrid, held them for days and tortured them, they say, before some were released on high bail. When they publicly described their mistreatment, they were informed that they might be rearrested for lying.
Just how the newspaper, whose books are scrutinized by the Basque government, is allegedly working with ETA is unclear. But the events are all standard procedure, made possible by anti-terrorist laws passed in Spain in the 1980s. Political parties are banished, newspapers are shut down and thousands are arrested, held without judicial scrutiny, beaten and tortured. Hundreds have been killed.
Yet, while human rights groups write their reports, nobody is particularly upset, for the victims are Basques. And the Basques, we are told -- like the Arabs -- are terrorists, and they deserve whatever they get, no matter how law-abiding they are.
The average Spanish family living in a different corner of Iberia will not see a problem with any of this until the political party they vote for is outlawed, their newspaper of choice is shut down, their son vanishes one day and turns up weeks later with bruises and scars. The Spanish government can do this, too, with the same anti- terrorism laws it uses against the Basques.
The Franco dictatorship drew close to the U.S. with the unspoken argument that a commitment to anti-communism was more important than human rights. Today, the government of Jose Maria Aznar draws close to the Bush administration by virtue of a commitment to anti- terrorism.
The great lie on which all this is based is that the Basques are terrorists.
Once a people is labeled "terrorist," anything is permissible, and so the Spanish government insists on this label.
The Basques are a notoriously divided people. Their tiny land, about the size of New Hampshire, is divided into seven provinces -- three in France and four in Spain -- each speaking a different dialect of an orphan language that probably predates all other European languages.
Disputes endure between the provinces of Vizcaya and Guipuzcoa, and between Navarra and everyone else, and that's just on the Spanish side.
Yet Basques are frequently described by the Spanish as single- minded, bomb-wielding separatists.
Some Basques want a separate country made up of the seven provinces, but that desire is held by a small minority. Such an independent Basque nation has never existed in the thousands of years of their history.
What Basques always had was a special relationship with the ruling power: the Romans, the French, the Spanish. Although loyal to the ruling state, they were outside the customs zone and had their own laws.
Judging from voting patterns, a clear majority of Basques, 60% or more, want that special relationship to return.
An even higher percentage of Basques, all but a very few, adamantly opposes the use of violence to achieve goals and believes the murderous ways of ETA to be unacceptable.
ETA, which has killed many Basques, injures the Basque economy, destroys the Basque name and is hated by most Basques.
The estimated 800 killings attributed to ETA since 1968 and a similar number of Spanish killings of Basques in the same period are equally unpardonable.
It is wrong to kill in the name of Basque nationalism.
It is also wrong when the Spanish police and Civil Guard kill Basques and then find weapons that no bystanders saw.
It is wrong when Basques "commit suicide" in Spanish prisons with their hands bound, or when Basques meet with mysterious fatal accidents in Spanish custody.
We all know that killing is wrong, so we find ways to identify some killing as better than others. The U.S. does not bomb civilians, but it kills hundreds in "collateral damage." ETA kills people, while the Spanish government simply fights terrorism. Spanish killing is excusable because it consists of "accidents" in the noble pursuit of anti-terrorism -- collateral damage -- whereas ETA killings are despicable because they are terrorism.
In fact, ETA rarely employs terrorism, defined as random killing to create fear. In most cases, it goes after specific people for specified reasons. I am not saying that this excuses ETA (after all, anything the Spanish government chooses to call an "apology for terrorism" is a crime in Spain); I am simply pointing out that the Spanish deliberately misuse the terrorism label to excuse their own crimes.
The Basques denounce political violence and mount demonstrations of tens of thousands of people against ETA. The Basque government and the Basque police force ruthlessly pursue the rogue organization. There is no more they can do.
It is now up to the Spanish people to denounce and seek legal redress for the brutal crimes committed against the Basque people by their government under the guise of anti-terrorism, because if Spain, as the Spanish claim, is a functioning democracy, these crimes are being committed in their name.
Credit: Mark Kurlansky is the author of "The Basque History of the World" (Penguin, 2001).
Monday, March 24, 2003
Peacefully, Basques take on Spain anew
By Paulo Prada, Globe Correspondent, 3/23/2003
VITORIA, Spain - As Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar struggles to build support for the war in Iraq, another Spanish leader is battling for a cause of his own.
The Basque premier, Juan Jose Ibarretxe of the moderate Basque Nationalist Party, is pushing a proposal that would grant the Basque region, one of 17 administrative areas, in Spain, further self- government, along with nominal sovereignty over its three provinces.
In an interview at his official residence, a brick-and-sandstone mansion in the Basque capital of Vitoria, Ibarretxe said he wants ''people outside the Basque country to understand what we're talking about.''
''This is not about forming a separate state; it's not about independence,'' Ibarretxe said. ''It's about developing a new relationship with Spain and getting past the stalemate that curses us both.''
Although sovereignty would be ''shared'' with the Spanish government, the plan is raising hackles in Madrid and elsewhere in Spain, as varied political forces reject the notion of ceding further powers to a region that has more political autonomy than any other.
Ibarretxe conceived the plan, which stresses ''free association'' with Spain, as a way to circumvent the impasse that has dogged the Basque country's relationship with Madrid, and that has helped to kindle the separatist torch carried by ETA, or Basque Homeland and Liberty, the group that has been linked to the killings of 839 people since 1968.
Among other demands, the proposal seeks the creation of Basque courts, a regional social security system, a distinct nationality, even a diplomatic corps. Critics say that the proposal is vague, and that its consequences are unpredictable.
Ibarretxe unveiled the plan before the Basque Parliament in September. Since, he has traveled around Spain, Europe, and Latin America to promote it. Next month, he will fly to Chicago, New York, and Boston, ahead of an address April 7 at Harvard.
The Basque country, a verdant region that includes the northern coast and some of the Pyrenees, as well as parts of the southeastern coast and mountains of France, is home to just over 2 million people. One of Europe's original populations, the Basques boast the continent's oldest live language. The region itself predates the political creation of Spain by millennia.
Although the region has always formed an integral part of Spain - Basques were instrumental in forging the modern Spanish state - nationalist movements in the late 1800s gained force during the dictatorship of Generalissimo Francisco Franco.
As Spain moved toward democracy in the 1970s, the region wrested a large degree of self-government from Madrid and today administers its own tax, education, police, and health programs. Most Basques oppose outright independence, but nationalist sentiment continues to thrive, as does a small separatist minority.
Relations with Madrid have worsened in recent years. After a brief detente in 1999, when ETA ended a 14-month cease-fire, the group resumed its campaign, allegedly murdering a Socialist town councilman last month in Andoian, a nationalist stronghold south of San Sebastian.
While the Basque government condemns ETA and its tactics, Ibarretxe (pronounced EE-bahr-REH-tcheh) and his party are scorned by some opponents who say they could do more to curb the violence.
The proposal was made at a particularly tense time. On March 17, the Spanish Supreme Court, after deliberating for months, on outlawed Herri Batasuna, the radical nationalist party that is considered ETA's political wing. In February, the Spanish government shut down Egunkaria, a Basque-language newspaper that police say has ties to ETA.
Ibarretxe opposes both measures. ''If there is proof,'' he said, ''then arrest the criminals. But you can't get closer to peace by outlawing ideologies or trying to stamp out a language and culture.''
In a classically decorated sitting room - still-lifes adorn the walls - Ibarretxe denounced the reluctance by Aznar's government to discuss his proposal. ''It's the lack of communication that hurts our relationship.''
For years, the Spanish government has vowed not to yield to demands of Basque nationalists until it believes they will cooperate fully to eradicate ETA. Because the Basque Nationalist Party has governed in coalition with Batasuna - and has declined arrangements with mainstream Spanish parties to outweigh separatist votes in town councils - Madrid often portrays Ibarretxe as a party to the radicals.
He calls such arguments ''unreasonable.''
''We'll defeat the radical parties,'' Ibarretxe said, ''but we'll do it at the ballot box. How dare the Spanish parties talk of pacting with us when they don't properly talk to us?''
Trim and energetic - he cycles 60 miles or so on weekends, with bodyguards in tow - the 46-year-old Ibarretxe is a career politician. He was elected mayor of his hometown, near Vitoria, at age 26, and to the Basque Parliament at 27.
President, in the Basque country since 1998, Ibarretxe has consistently pressed Madrid for more power. ''We don't want more self-government so we can bicker with Madrid,'' he said. ''We want it so we can live better.''
With a per-capita income 24 percent higher than the Spanish average, many Basques attribute their prosperity in part to the high level of autonomy.
Under the terms of Ibarretxe's proposal for further freedoms, the Basque Parliament will review a completed draft this year and will eventually pass it on to voters in a referendum. Although the measure would also have to be approved by the Spanish Parliament to be constitutionally binding - a tall order - many opponents fear that the proposal, even if defeated, will sow further dissent.
''This tries to convert the dreams of a minority of Basque society into reality for the whole,'' said Leopoldo Barreda, a member of the Basque Legislature and a spokesman for Aznar's center-right Popular Party.
Legal specialists say the process is technically possible, but the proposal's ends could defy the constitution.
''The region could one day set up a judicial system, but it would have to be subordinate to the Spanish Supreme Court,'' said Juan Jose Solozabal, a professor of constitutional law at the Autonomous University of Madrid. ''It could have foreign missions, but that couldn't replace Spanish diplomats.''
Voters appear to be divided. A poll by the Basque government, which distributed 80,000 pamphlets outlining the plan to households, suggests that 75 percent of the population supports weighing new proposals on the region's relationship with Madrid. But a study by the University of the Basque Country, in Bilbao, indicates that 45 percent of the population believes Ibarretxe's plan would spark further instability.
An early indication of the proposal's future may be shown on May 25, when Basques vote in local elections. A poor showing for Ibarretxe's party could reflect aversion to his plan.
If rebuffed, Ibarretxe says, he would continue to seek alternatives to the deadlock with Madrid. ''I don't expect Basques to stand toe to toe in support,'' he says. ''If other people have better ideas, fine. But, by God, speak up and present them.''
Even if Ibarretxe is honest about this lukewarm and watered-down push for self determination, Spain will disregard it and Ibarretxe will be left with nothing to hold on to. The only solution to the Basque call to self determination is complete sovereignty, meaning, independence.
Sunday, March 23, 2003
EGUNKARIA AND THE MIRACLE OF SAINT ELEUTERIO
Pako Aristi --- (Writer and Journalist)
I've been asked to write a few words, and I've started searching for adjectives immediately. Many of those adjectives apply to our reality. The list I've written is here, close to me. But I'm not using them. All of them have already been used these days. Adjectives of doom, bitterness, tears, fear, anger, and sentences swelled with great words, linguistic torpedoes denouncing the quality of democracy, beautiful and enthusiastic words, like banners, that defend the spirit of Basque personality... I couldn't improve that artillery. Besides, I don't think it matches up well with Egunkaria. Because Egunkaria was small, in its nobility; poor, in its beauty; created little echo among Basque people, in its strength.
I would like to show my feelings in a word. When I saw the magnitude of the attack last Thursday, I was truly distressed; I know most of the arrested people, and I love them. "If Txema Auzmendi has been arrested, it's all over for us", I thought, "If they have arrested the least likely person I could imagine, they will come and take me from home one of these nights".
But on Friday I was really astonished: The new and provisional newspaper "Egunero" sold 50,000 copies. Shocked, as I was, I wondered: where have all those readers been during the last twelve years? Because the daily "Egunkaria" recently sold only thirteen thousand copies, and even less the previous years. Didn't these new readers know about its existence? Didn't they realize that the life of a daily newspaper lies in its sales? Weren't they aware that a lot of good Basque writers published their literary works in "Egunkaria"? Didn't they know that "Egunkaria" published short stories throughout the summer?
Well, no, they didn't. And I'll tell you why. Those people, the same new readers that have just surfaced, used to read "Marca", "El Diario Vasco", "El Correo", "Interviu", "Integral" (Spanish sports dailies, newspapers and magazines) etc., but they didn't read a word in Basque. According to them, it's difficult, they are not accustomed to reading in Basque, they don't understand the new vocabulary, and they don't enjoy reading. And they prefer to have breakfast with the fascist newspaper "El Diario Vasco" than with a tender article by Kirman Uribe.
Egunkaria published an excellent style manual of style and usage, but these new-found readers didn't know. Egunkaria's journalists had very low wages, its contributors were not well paid, but they didn't know that either. Our best humorists published their works in Egunkaria every day, but these new readers weren't aware. The interviews in Egunkaria were long and pluralistic, but they didn't know it; they preferred to read the nonsensical, partisan and repetitive interviews in the rest of newspaper and magazines.
I wasn't able speak to anyone about articles published in Egunkaria: because nobody read it. In the town of Azpeitia for instance, where 90% of the population speaks Basque, Egunkaria was barely sold. While I was writing a daily column in the paper, people thought I wasn't working, that I was on holiday. The same day Egunkaria published a two-page interview about my recent work, people would say to me: "you don't appear anywhere lately".
That was my life, Egunkaria's life, until last Thursday. On Thursday, Saint Eleuterio performed a miracle: the whole world has found out that Egunkaria indeed existed. Moreover, we Basques now know that it was a very important tool for our survival. That's why people are protesting, out in the streets, and buying Egunkaria. We, the Basque people, are very good at protesting but very bad at keeping our word. We don't show the love we feel to the Basque language or the need for it in our every day's life. We are false lovers. When others attack, we confront. But in the quiet of our homes we are not able to calmly read an article written by someone from the north of Basque Country: well, we don't understand that funny writing.
If Egunkaria sold 50,000 copies every day, there wouldn't any doubt about its future, or about the lack of government subsidies. The employees would have good salaries, the contributors would get a beautiful dinner at Arzak's (famous restaurant in San Sebastian) every now and then, and everything would be more beautiful, even Egunkaria itself. The journalists would travel, at Egunkaria's expense, to write the most interesting of features.
But I'm afraid we Basques are only good at protesting, I'm afraid we are not good at maintaining the continuity of our enthusiastic purposes, to our fiery feelings every day. That's where Egunkaria's problem lies, rather than in a courthouse in Madrid. Let's not take the wrong path.
Saturday, March 22, 2003
First of all, if you follow Yahoo News you will notice how pictures about the Basques are usually related to political events or to the last act of violence by ETA or the Guardia Civil, very seldom you will see a picture showing a Basque cultural event. Now, among those pictures they actually show you will never see children, it is always adults, the picture I posted is the forth one to depict children in over two years. There was one of a girl walking by a Batasuna graffiti in Donostia I think, one of a bunch of kids playing with an Ikurrina in Andoain and one of a girl in a protest against that one crazy french politician in Baiona, that is it.
Quite easy, the media forgot they are supposed to inform, not to create opinion. The reason why you don't see children is because the image of children in the middle of a conflict or issue tends to create an emotional link between the viewer and the underdog. The media wants to make sure that the public's perception of the Basque issue is that of a bunch of lunatics that could be living in paradise if they could come to terms with the fact that "they lost that war". To throw photos of children in the mix goes against that tailored concept, so they avoid them because children represent innocence, and they want nothing innocent about the Basque issue.
Second, when the media wants to support a cause they throw in the ethnic issue because the world still remembers what can happen when someone decides an ethnic group is not worth it. If you put the words Albanian or Kurdish/Kurd on the Yahoo News search engine you will come up with a bunch of pictures of Kosovo and Iraq and the foot note will read something like "Ethnic Albanian" or "Ethnic Kurd". Once again, they do that so you feel sympathy for the poor ethnic this or that who are victims of intolerance and racism and could face "ethnic cleansing" at the hands of this or that horrible dictator. Other people get at least their nationality without the "ethnic" part. Never the Basques, unless it is a terrorist or a "radical" politician like Otegi.
That is the media bias that we need to fight.
The first picture should read "Ethnic Basque/Spaniard Basque children..." or the second one should read "Students..." in order for it to be objective information which is the kind that you expect from an international information source, and from then on, you can form your own opinion.
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Thursday, March 20, 2003
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG
The closure of Egunkaria, because of its magnitude, can hide the whole extent of the attack against the Basque Country. But it would be nonsense to analyze the events of February the 20th out of their context. You only have to take a closer look at the list of the arrested people to realize about that.
Five out of ten arrested people take part in the Direction Board of the newspaper: first of all Martxelo Otamendi the Editor and along with him, in the decision making process, four more persons: Iñaki Uria, Fermin Lazkano, Luis Goia and Inma Gomila.
If you analyse the profile of the other five persons you can see the underlying objective of the action that has been taken. Juan Mª Torrealday is the Editor of the Jakin the Basque cultural magazine; Pello Zubiria is the Editor of the Argia a Basque weekly magazine; Xavier Oleaga has been a leader of the Basque education movement; Txema Auzmendi, Jesuit and priest, has been the producer of the Basque section of the Herri Irratia, a Basque Radio Station. Xavier Alegria, besides his politician profile, has been a hard working leader of the Basque language movement for many years.
This is no the right moment to talk about the boycott that Egunkaria has suffered for a long time, made by some nationalist people. But things will be clarified in the future.
The closure has not been an isolated attack apart from other attacks against Basque culture. Everyday we can read in the news about the attacks against Basque culture that are being made by the Spanish Popular Party in Nafarroa. The campaign against the Basque education movement (Ikastola) is another example. The work that this movement has made for many years, favouring the bureaucracy of the Basque Government, has been hided and distorted.
But nowadays there are more and more people in favour of a modern and alive Basque language. And this is what causes the anger of the enemies.
It would take long to talk about the attitude of the French authorities against the Basque language. You only have to look at the situation of the Basque language in the north of the Basque Country to realize about that.
The big attack of the recent days, in short, is the last straw of a negative will against the Basque Country. But the Basque people have been through dark situations like this before, and for sure we are going to overcome all the difficulties.
Go for it!
Basque independence party banned
By CNN Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman
Monday, March 17, 2003 Posted: 1:55 PM EST (1855 GMT)
MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Spain's Supreme Court has outlawed Batasuna, a pro-Basque independence party which authorities widely consider to be the political arm of the outlawed separatist group ETA, CNN partner station CNN+ reported.
The court voted 16-0 Monday to accept the government's argument that Batasuna could be outlawed under a law that went into effect last June, which permits the banning of parties that support terrorism.
Batasuna supports Basque independence but insists it is not linked to ETA. It is the only political party in Spain that refuses to condemn ETA's fatal attacks.
Batasuna got 140,000 votes, 10 percent of the total vote, in Basque regional elections in 2001.
The court ruling comes two months before May 25 municipal elections, when Batasuna would have presented dozens of candidates for Basque town councils.
Batasuna can appeal the Supreme Court ruling to Spain's top tribunal, the Constitutional Court, but the ban on Batasuna is due to take effect in the coming days even if there is an appeal.
In a separate crackdown on Batasuna, Spanish investigating magistrate Baltasar Garzon last August issued a three-year injunction against Batasuna, citing evidence under Spain's penal code that the party actively supports ETA.
The injunction led to the closure last August of Batasuna offices in numerous towns, including the three main Basque cities, Bilbao, San Sebastian and Vitoria.
Batasuna's leaders were not immediately arrested under the injunction but were unable to use the party banner or trappings. In addition, Batasuna was cut off from public funding for political parties.
Politically moderate Basque leaders have said that outlawing Batasuna will not lead to peace in the troubled Basque region.
The new Political Parties law went into effect on June 29 after it won broad support in parliament. The law did not mention Batasuna by name but allowed the government to ask the Supreme Court to outlaw parties that actively support terrorism or are apologists for it.
The law was first tested last August after a car bomb blamed on ETA killed two people in the Mediterranean resort of Santa Pola. Batasuna leaders failed to condemn the attack, and the government moved to determine if that silence was enough to prove support for terrorism.
Spanish officials said evidence shows that Batasuna helps finance and support ETA. Police say 400 Batasuna members have joined ETA over the years.
Even the members of the PSOE and the PCE, two political parties outlawed during the Franco regime voted against Batasuna, Spanish politicians have no ethics, no memory and no dignity.
Writer Anjel Lertxundi read the text prepared for the occasion. He talked about how Basque language should be "a land of freedom", and about how it has united people from very different sensibilities over the centuries. He reminded that, as a small language, euskera cannot have many newspapers, radios and televisions, and about how closing one is a huge loss. And he also remembered the days on which he read that "easy, wide and agile" -relating to a poem by Axular- Egunkaria "still with his pyjama".
The folklore investigator Juan Antonio Urbeltz asked for a "responsible political position", to think about "everything that is happening to us, if we don't want to continue another forty years without answering that "quosque tandem?" -where are we going?- that Jorge Oteiza made in the sixties". The theatre and cinema director Eneko Olasagasti reminded that they were going to perform `Metxa´ for the first time the day Egunkaria was closed. "We felt tiny when we wanted to feel big, as Egunkaria was the biggest support that we as creators had in the media". Anari spoke for all the musicians. "It's more important how Egunkaria read us, the interpretation that made of us, than how we read Egunkaria", she said.
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Tuesday, March 18, 2003
Ok, take a good look of these two pictures and read the footnotes, then try to figure out what is wrong, what does not match between the footnotes for the pictures:
Two children hold up banners reading: 'No to War' in both the Basque (Euskara) language, left, and Spanish during a demonstration against a possible U.S.-led war on Iraq, in Irunea, Euskal Herria, Saturday March 15, 2003.
Iraqi Kurdish students attend an anti-Turkish demonstration in protest of possible Turkish intervention in the event of war in Iraq, in Irbil city, northern Iraq, controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party , Monday, March 10, 2003.
I'll give the answer in a couple of days, submit your opinions.
.... ... .
Here you have an article about the "scandal" via The Guardian:
Spanish fury at 'slur' on the Conquistadores
Historian claims ancient civilisations were destroyed by ruthless entrepreneurs
Giles Tremlett in Madrid
Monday March 17 2003
Outraged Spanish conservatives have turned against an historian for daring to question the idea that bravery, patriotism and belief in a Christian god were the key values of the Conquistadores who created Spain's new world empire.
The respected American historian Henry Kamen has been accused of "rubbishing the history of Spain" and "destroying the foundations of the Spanish empire" in his book, Spain's Road to Empire.
There has even been talk among those most upset by the attack on such national icons as conquistadores Hernan Cortes and Francisco Pizarro of settling Spain's wounded honour with an old-fashioned duel.
Mr Kamen's book has shaken the accepted, school-taught Spanish view of the New World conquista as an epic tale of organised empire-building carried out by brave, loyal Spaniards for the greater glory of their country and monarchs.
The historian has, instead, painted the destruction of the Inca and Aztec civilisations as the work of ruthless, self-interested entrepeneurs and mercenaries who used the Spanish crown as little more than a shield for their ambitions.
"Most of what he says is distortion and twisted interpretation," complained one angry letter writer to the conservative daily newspaper ABC. "In other times this would have led to a duel."
In Spain's august Royal Academy of History, many of whose largely elderly academicians cut their teeth as professors in General Franco's universities, the angry rumbling of discontent has been at its loudest.
"His theses are false. He is just trying to grab attention," fumed academician Luis Suarez. "We have the misfortune that foreigners write our history for us."
"The worst thing is the morbid passion, the history that defames," added the academy's former director, Antonio Rumeu de Armas.
Mr Kamen's crimes, his critics have said, include pointing out that much of the conquista of Aztecs and Incas was done by native peoples allied to Spain and that those who most benefited were often the German and Italian bankers who paid for the expeditions.
Where Spaniards themselves were prominent in a period of empire-building that stretched from the end of the 15th century to the mid-18th century, greed for silver and gold and "pitiless, barbaric" cruelty were the tonic of the times. Worst of all for the traditionalists, Mr Kamen has questioned whether the Spain of the times, itself only just "reconquered" from the Moors and "united" under a single monarchy, could really be considered a proper country.
"At the outset... 'Spain' did not exist, it had not formed politically or economically," he said in the book's introduction. This, his critics said, played straight into the hands of regional nationalists in Catalonia and the Basque country who claim to have histories that run separate to a Spain dominated by Castilian monarchs.
Mr Kamen admitted yesterday that could be why the book had been so enthusiastically accepted in Catalonia. "I am playing down Spain's role in its history which, for Catalans, is very satisfactory."
But the historian said he welcomed the controversy he had generated. "This is the most fundamental questioning anyone has done... you cannot go much further in overturning everything. I hope this will open out a few more factual references for people educated in a historical pattern that has remained unchanged, in a certain way, since Franco."
Publication of the book in Spain follows a long-running row between regional nationalists and the conservative People's party government of Jose Maria Aznar, backed by the royal academy, over what version of Spanish history should be taught in schools.
It also came as Mr Aznar, a keen supporter of the proposed war on Iraq, has launched a campaign for Spain to be taken seriously on the world stage again.
The persecution of a newspaper
Monday 17th March 2003
Pello Zubiria lies in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Madrid, suffering from pneumonia and a degenerative disease called ankylosing spondylitis, which causes the bones in his spine to fuse together.
Zubiria is here because, on 20 February, the Spanish Guardia Civil raided the offices of Euskaldunon Egunkaria, Spain's leading Basque-language newspaper, and arrested ten members of staff. As a former managing editor, Zubiria was among those accused of helping the violent separatist group ETA in its campaign for an independent Basque country.
Zubiria's delicate condition was ignored when he was imprisoned, and the pain became so great that he had a nervous breakdown and attempted to kill himself. To date, only four of the journalists arrested have been released on bail, and each has complained of torture by the Spanish authorities.
Martxelo Otamendi, the current editor of Egunkaria, told a press conference upon his release: "The treatment was merciless, brutal." During the five days that he was held at a police station, he was twice suffocated with a bag while being verbally abused.
This is the latest example of Spain's unique interpretation of the war on terror, where Basque newspapers, cultural magazines, radio stations, language schools for adults and even children's language schools are accused of harbouring terrorist activity. There is no disputing the criminality of ETA, which has caused the deaths of more than 800 people in a bombing and shooting campaign since 1968; but the Basque community as a whole is threatened by the government's heavy-handed clampdown.
Although the Spanish media have already decided Egunkaria is guilty, the paper has vigorously denied any connection to ETA. "There is absolutely no truth in these allegations," said a spokesman. "The paper is subsidised by the Basque government and we are audited by it every year. These are public accounts."
The lack of hard evidence for the arrests led the secretary-general of Reporters sans Frontieres, Robert Menard, to write a letter to the Spanish justice minister, Jose MarIa Michavila. Other non- governmental organisations such as the International Federation of Journalists and Amnesty International have publicly pledged their support to the paper.
Following the closure of Egunkaria, 100,000 protesters crowded into the streets of the Basque city of Donostia. The demonstration was attended by artists, labour groups and the clergy. Also present were members of each Basque political party and the Basque government - which is semi-autonomous from the Spanish government, and controls areas such as taxation and education.
Meanwhile, Pello Zubiria remains in hospital, under arrest. The Spanish courts have now sentenced him and five Egunkaria journalists to "unconditional imprisonment", but he cannot be moved until his doctors say otherwise.
March 17, 2003 | Vol. 161, No. 11
Blaming The Messenger
Spain's heavy-handed attempt to fight Basque terrorism by closing a Basquenewspaper is only spreading rage and fear
By JAMES GRAFF | ANDOAIN
First came the predawn trip, blindfolded in the back of a Spanish paramilitary van, from his home in Tolosa to a police cell in Madrid. It was there, claims Martxelo Otamendi - the last managing editor of the now banned Basque-language daily Egunkaria - that his ordeal began. While police interrogated him about his newspaper's alleged links to the Basque separatist terror organization ETA, he claims they had him stand naked in his cell for three days, with a chance to sit down only every five hours. Otamendi, 45, says the police humiliated him for his homosexuality, telling him to "take the position I use when my lover and I make love." On the third day, he says, they gave him the notorious treatment known as la Bolsa - "the bag" - a plastic sack pulled over the head to cause a panic they hoped would compel him to name his ETA contacts. But Otamendi insists he has none. His only relationship with the terrorists, he says, was several interviews conducted years ago. "There's never been any suggestions from ETA to our paper, no orders, absolutely nothing," he says.
Otamendi's explosive and still unproven story has been vociferously denied by the Spanish government. Nevertheless, the Feb. 20 closure of Egunkaria and the detention of 10 of its managers - five of whom remained in custody last week - have given fresh focus and energy to Basque feelings of martyrdom. A crackdown meant to weaken Basque national solidarity may have done the reverse.
For decades, just over 50% of the 2 million residents of the Basque region in northeast Spain have wanted greater autonomy from Spain; others are content with the considerable freedom they already enjoy under an autonomous government with
its own police force, tax authority, and health and education ministries. The spectrum of opinion stretches from espanolistas who scorn autonomy to the estimated 200 active commandos of ETA (short for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, Basque Homeland and Liberty), who vow to end their 35-year terror spree only when the region is independent.
Egunkaria was the sole daily paper to publish exclusively in the ancient Basque language, and most Basques see its shutdown as an attack on their unique linguistic and cultural heritage. Tens of thousands turned out in San Sebastián to protest the paper's shutdown, and last week more than 1,000 university journalism students in Bilbao came to hear Otamendi and three other journalists decry the closure. On the other side is the Madrid government of Prime Minister José María Aznar, which regards the shuttering of Egunkaria - like last year's banning of the political party Batasuna for alleged close ties to ETA - a necessary step in its war on terrorism. No wonder many Basques feel caught between unacceptable terrorism and unacceptable repression. "We're at a great impasse," says Gorka Landáburu, a journalist who lost an eye, a thumb and three fingertips to an ETA letterbomb in May 2001. "It has become trench warfare of reprimands and insults."
Nowhere is the desperation more palpable than in Andoain, a town on the Leitzaran River south of San Sebastián. Here Egunkaria ran its main office, now sealed after Spanish police impounded documents and computers last month. Less than two weeks before, municipal police chief and vocal ETA opponent Joseba Pagazaurtundua, 48, was gunned down by ETA while reading a newspaper at a local bar. He had been threatened by the terrorists for years, says his sister, Maite, and in 1995 petitioned successfully to be transferred. But in 1999, according to his family, he was forced to go back to Andoain, to be subjected anew to threatening letters, graffiti, and to two of his cars being burned. "My brother knew he was going to die," says Maite, a former Socialist member of the Basque parliament. "His torture was permanent."
So, it might be said, is that of the Basque country. ETA has killed 800 people since 1968; another two dozen were killed in the mid-1980s by the shady, Spanish-government-linked death squads of GAL (Anti-Terrorist Liberation Groups). By some measures, the situation has improved since then. The death rate has slowed, and since last August, when Spanish investigative judge Baltasar Garzón banned Batasuna, the permanent campaign of bus burning and political vandalism has all but evaporated. Says Juan José Ibarretxe, the president of the Basque government: "Basque society has less fear than ever."
Not in Andoain. The killing there began in May 2000, when one of Pagazaurtundua's best friends, newspaper columnist José Luis López de la Calle, was gunned down on a rainy street while picking up the Sunday papers. "There is total fear here - everyone is afraid, they don't dare to talk in bars and cafés," says Estanislao Amuchagui, a Socialist town councilor in Andoain. Since it aborted a 14-month cease-fire in November 1999, ETA has broadened its threats to include thousands of judges, journalists, politicians and businessmen, who are under constant guard. "It's like the hardest days of the Franco dictatorship, when police informers were everywhere," says Amuchagui. "But now we don't know who the informers are."
No one really believes that banning Egunkaria will curtail the cycle of fear and violence. No specific evidence linking the paper to ETA has been formally aired, but press reports suggest that the government's case rests largely on several documents, seized in raids on ETA commandos in the early '90s, in which ETA members expressed preferences for certain editors at the paper. The Madrid daily El País reported last week that the government also had a letter from ETA to a Basque businessman telling him to pay his "revolutionary tax" directly to "a Basque cultural outlet such as Egunkaria."
Otamendi and his supporters reject the charge that his paper pursued ETA's agenda. A subsidy from the Basque government covered one-quarter of the paper's costs, and the Basque government remains one of the biggest advertisers in the smaller daily, Egunero, that former Egunkaria staffers have put out since the closure from temporary offices in Tolosa. Otamendi says that in the last week of its existence, Egunkaria ran an interview with a leader of the anti-ETA group Basta Ya, and was planning one with a local Socialist politician who opposes ETA. "We think the Basque country should have a right to self-determination," says Otamendi. "But to say we have a connection with ETA is like saying TIME has one with bin Laden, since you interviewed him."
The Basque country believes Aznar's move is based in a desire to show a hard line on terrorism before his Popular Party faces municipal elections throughout Spain on May 29. "It's an irresponsible attempt to destabilize institutions of Basque culture," says Basque president Ibarretxe. "Like many decisions taken by the Spanish government, it will be rejected by Basque society, but accepted as necessary by Spanish society." Meanwhile, he says he can't get an appointment to speak with Aznar himself. "He's mounted on a horse of arrogance, and that's bad for the Basque people, and ultimately for Spanish society itself." With his unpopular decision to back the United States in the war on Iraq, Aznar has bigger cod to fry. But the festering Basque conflict is a reminder that peace is no more assured at home than abroad.
Sunday, March 16, 2003
Definition of 'torture' blurs
Coercion in Spain hints at how many justify the practice
By Tom Hundley
Tribune foreign correspondent
March 16, 2003
SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain -- The two police cars had been conspicuous in tailing him earlier in the day, so Martxelo Otamendi was not surprised by his arrest, only the manner of it.
"The Civil Guard came to my house at 1:30 in the morning. There were about 12 cars. They sealed off all the streets in my neighborhood. It was really a military operation, like they were arresting [Osama] bin Laden," said Otamendi, editor of Egunkaria, Spain's only Basque-language newspaper.
The police spent five hours in the house, Otamendi said, rummaging through his belongings, carting away boxes of books, files, family photos and personal effects that they hoped would link him to ETA, the violent Basque separatist organization.
After they finished, a handcuffed and blindfolded Otamendi was led away from the house and driven six hours to Madrid's Soto del Real prison.
When he walked out of the prison five days later, Otamendi appeared dazed. He tried to give a television interview but broke down in the middle of it.
He later told interviewers he had been stripped, deprived of sleep, forced to stand for hours, blindfolded and subjected to other "moderate" physical and psychological abuse.
Human-rights organizations say that these allegations, if true, amount to torture.
"We believe that any ill-treatment inflicted deliberately should count as torture," said Gillian Fleming, an investigator with Amnesty International.
With countries as diverse as the United States, Russia, Israel and Spain stepping up their wars on terrorism, human-rights groups and legal experts say the legal and moral boundaries for the use of torture are becoming dangerously blurred.
For years, Israel's secret police defended what they called "moderate physical pressure"--binding suspects in painful positions, covering their heads with hoods and violently shaking them--as a legitimate means of coercing information from Palestinian prisoners.
Rights groups object to these practices. "Amnesty International is totally opposed to the idea that there is any acceptable form of torture," Fleming said, and in a landmark decision two years ago, the Israeli Supreme Court agreed.
But senior U.S. officials acknowledge they are using sleep and light deprivation and the temporary withholding of food, water and medical attention to extract information from Al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the senior operative arrested in Pakistan this month.
Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld insist that these techniques are legal and appropriate, especially when it comes to eliciting information from someone like Mohammed, a career terrorist and close confidant of bin Laden's who is believed to have been a key planner of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Otamendi, on the other hand, is a newspaper editor and television personality. His links to terrorist activity, if they exist at all, are far from proven. The newspaper he edits is generally regarded as a voice of moderation in a troubled region, although some in the Spanish
government suspect it of having ties to ETA.
In Spain, allegations of torture and abuse tend to fall on deaf ears when they come from people that the government has accused of having links to ETA, a group whose appetite for violence has alienated virtually all of the Spanish public, including most Basques.
"When they get out of jail, ETA people always claim torture. It's standard operating procedure," one Western diplomat said. An ETA operations manual seized by the government does instruct its members to make this claim.
Otamendi was arrested Feb. 20 along with nine other people associated with the Egunkaria management, including a Jesuit priest who is a member of newspaper's board of directors. Police also ordered the newspaper to cease publication.
Two days later, about 60,000 people marched in San Sebastian to protest the newspaper's closing. But Spain's leading newspapers have taken little notice of the closing or the allegations of torture made by Otamendi and three others who have since been released.
"Journalists here care about saving the whales, about torture in Chile 25 years ago and about mistreatment of Taliban prisoners in Guantanamo, but they are not going to stick their necks out for the Basques," Otamendi said.
He can smile now when he recalls how his jailers forced him to do calisthenics to the point of exhaustion.
"Knee-bends, push-ups. Then they would have me kneel or stand facing the wall for three or four hours at a time. They would let me sit for 20 minutes, but no lying down," he said. "For the first three days, I was never allowed to lie down."
As required by Spanish law, Otamendi was allowed to visit a court-appointed doctor each day. Because he also is well-known as a gay activist, Otamendi said he was constantly insulted about his orientation and forced to simulate sex acts.
"They kicked me a few times in the testicles. Not very hard, just a reminder of what could come later," he said.
On two occasions, he said, the jailers put a bag over his head so that he couldn't breathe. Another time they put a gun to his temple and cocked the hammer.
Spain's anti-terrorism laws allow authorities to hold suspects for five days without access to a lawyer and without specifying the charges. What Otamendi's interrogators seemed to want was information about the financing and ownership of Egunkaria and his journalistic contacts with
"They told me that the interrogations were like a train: I had a chance to get off at any stop and suffer less. It was my choice. They told me that in the end everyone talks, so why not make it easy on myself," he said.
On Monday, the Spanish government filed a criminal complaint against Otamendi and the other detainees who alleged torture, accusing them of collaborating with ETA and undermining Spain's democratic institutions by making false allegations against the government.
Sportspersons denounce that closing Egunkaria means shutting up Basque language
As journalists did ten days ago, sportsmen and women hold a pres briefing Tuesday, to express their sympathy to Egunkaria's workers. Over two hundred signed in a big panel in front of the newspaper´s closed door, to show their solidarity to the newspaper. Among those sportsmen and women were some of the most well known Basque athletes, such as the football players Tiko and Jauregi, and hand-ball players Aimar Olaizola and Abel Barrriola.
Many of the 200 were present in the protest, and many others sent their messages from the distance. The athletes decided to leave some of their most precious belongings at Egunkaria; those will be used for a big auction that will be held soon, for gathering money for the newspaper. The stonelifter Iñaki Perurena read the text signed by the sportspersons, after hear ing the thankful words of Egunkaria´s workers Enekoitz Telleria and Ekaitz Agirre. Perurena reminded that Euskaldunon Egunkaria "was the only newspaper in our language", and denounced that closing it means "shutting up" euskera. Perurena said that Egunero, the newspaper that it substituting the closed one, is very necessary right now.
Amaiur Alfaro, Josune Bereziartu, Igor Jauregi and Abel Barriola spoke in representation of the signers in their sport disciplines. The climber Josune Bereziartu said that closing Egunkaria has done a big damage to her sport, as the newspaper had a supplement called "Mundumira" devoted to those sports. But she also said that she hopes that there will be a new paper soon, that will enclose a mountain sports supplement similar to "Mundumira". Igor Jauregi, the footballer from Real Sociedad, said: "We want to show our compromise and help with the new newspaper". Abel Barriola went even further, and said that he is sure that the new publication will have a great future.
Saturday, March 15, 2003
Eat, drink & be Basque
Mountain, meadow and sea define Basque country, food and culture -- recognised world-wide by travellers and travel guides, if not politicians
Daily Dispatch editor Gavin Stewart concludes -- part 3 of 3.
THE sirloin steak arrives at the long table on a plank -- still sizzling with fire, big as a plate, dark as pine-bark, sliced blood-red, tender as a dream.
Matabo Kunene swears this is the best steak she has ever eaten, the most tender. Matabo's opinion is to be taken seriously. She was head cook for the wedding of Nelson Mandela and Graça Machel.
"It must be very fresh," she suggests.
Loren Arkotxa says no. Arkotxa is our host, mayor of the fishing village of Ondorroa and president of the Basque assembly Udalbiltza. The dinner is to celebrate the international conference on peoples rights.
"Steak must hang in a cold room -- about six degrees for many days."
Only then it is grilled on the beds of coals which run across the end of this room and the next. Ideal company in the depths of winter, but winter comes late to the Bay of Biscay and the Basque country.
Proprietor of the cider house and restaurant is the mayor of Astarriaga, a village so close to San Sebastian there is no visible boundary between the two. It is also on top of a hill, which helps to walk up the appetite you need, since the bus cannot turn in the narrow road and has to park some way down.
Between the Pyrénées and the sea is apple country and the cider ferments in the next room, in barrels the size of caravans. It grabs the tongue and gives it a twist and a jerk to make the eyes water.
Those of us accustomed to having everything on the same plate at the same time, get nervous when we have to wait for one treat on one plate at one time.
This way you appreciate each dish a little more. Cod is the most famous part of any Basque meal. And then the roast peppers, which are grown in many varieties, each with a special purpose. And home-baked bread. Then the sirloin, which would suit a solid red wine, and there are plenty of reds about.
But the draught beer comes in a procession of glass jugs frosted with chill, a procession which goes on until sometime after midnight. We are soaked into surrender.
This is probably the best meal whose way I have come in a very long time. The Cathcart Arms Hotel in Grahamstown once served a rump steak in a similar league to the Basque sirloin, and a good draught. No longer.
Then the company may be the reason -- the hardier remnants on the last night of the Udalbiltza international conference on peoples rights.
The city of San Sebastian -- Donostia to Basques -- has taken the roles of harbour, fortress, business centre and summer resort. Its new Kursaal, at the mouth of the Nivelle River, is a model of the modern conference centre.
On the other side of the river, the Old Quarter is a labyrinth of alleyways, shops and bars, of Basque crafts, curios and obsessions -- like model boats and cheese -- tapas bars and shellfish
The walk to the top of the hill behind the Old Quarter, and the heart of the fortress is not as formidable as it looks. It might be even easier by daylight without the rain, but the winding stairways inside the thick stone walls whisper with damp and drip history in the dark.
From the top, the magical bay spreads out below.
The single word most often found in guide-books about San Sebastian is "expensive", although the same books are fulsome in their praise of the restaurants and shops.
A three course dinner was ¤12 at a good hotel (about R120), which is not so extreme for a South African abroad. A plain hotel room in Bayonne was ¤50 (about R500), but there are more modest options -- and plenty more costly ones. You can pay ¤18 (R180) for a cheese...
"The best time to be here is September," say the locals. The summer crowds are gone by then and the warmth is still around.
Playgrounds like San Sebastian and Biarritz are unplayable in summer.
August-September, going on autumn in Europe, has a good share of the feasts and festivals, in which the Basque country revels. The International Cinema Festival, Festival of Latin American Culture, Feast of St Michael of El Paso, Transhumance, Concours of farm dogs, and Basque Week.
Where France's A63 coastal motorway crosses the border into Spain it becomes the A8, which you can know only from looking at a map.
Every landmark is concealed by a wall of large trucks -- signs, trees, houses, mountains and a village which might be Irun. Beyond them is a second barrier of parking lots, liquor stores, outfitters, curio sellers and tapas bars.
Taxes on liquor are much lower in Spain and the volumes sold are huge. The litre is the minimum measure for most tipples in the liquor stores, with five-litre flagons of whisky, brandy, vodka and whatever else, as the more economic option, although they do have a bloated look.
Even allowing for the conversion from rands to Euros, these prices taste good. This is a place to buy gifts weighing one kilo (plus bottle).
The highway is a little inland from the coast roads which threads the seaside cliffs and sews together a dozen fishing villages. Some have stone brides reminding the visitor that the Roman legions and their engineers were also there.
Summer palaces dating to the French monarchy, and earlier, tell you Biarritz has long been popular among the glitterati.
Another warning is the chain of vast car-parks adjacent to pocket-handkerchief beaches. Flesh to flesh in the summer months, apparently, for those who can afford to be there at all.
The suburb La Negresse is named for a larger-than-life woman who owned a tavern there more than a century ago.
In Bayonne, the Museum of the Basques and the History of Bayonne has undergone extensive renovations. Music, artefact and architecture lead the visitor through the history of the region and cultural pursuits which begin with the central home and climb up to the pelota court.
Close by is the Museum Bonnat, the personal collection of portraitist Léon Bonnat with many examples of his own renderings of the grand ladies of Paris a century ago.
At the mountain village of Sare is the mountain train to the heights of Rhune and, somewhere below, the Sare Caves, dating back 45000 years to the Cro Magnon people, reputed to be the direct ancestors of the Basque nation.
An "authentic Basque home" dated 1660 is open to the public, a ground-floor barn with the traditional home of the extended family on two more floors above. Traditionally, the eldest child inherits the house and farm but the older family stays on in the house and everybody gathers there for family occasions.
THE Basque bid for recognition is embodied in Bilbao's Guggenheim art gallery.
The planning, costs, style and content of Frank Gehry's titanium building were all subject to heated dispute and public protest. So was the commissioning of the North American architect.
It was condemned by critics as American cultural imperialism come crashing down on Basque innocence. Apart from the style of the whole thing, the content was going to be more American than Basque.
The final building, a 35 hectare sculpture of limestone, glass and titanium, floats somewhere between contemporary sculpture and space station.
A main highway into the city undercuts one side, the Nivelle River is 16 metres below the land.
For those pushing the museum, mostly the Basque national parties, the building was intended to fix attention on Bilbao as a modern, high-technology city, rising into a new millennium from the sooty remains of its industrial past.
Surprising its critics, the building appears to have achieved its main aims. The gallery had more than 600 000 visitors in the first six months and its millionth guest well before its first anniversary in 1997.
It increased tourism to the area by more than 25 percent. And it convinced a lot of sceptics that Bilbao has risen from its past.
Here you have the previous two articles:
Basques' long battle for a place in new Europe
JUDGE JUAN DEL OLMO EXTENDS CLOSURE OF EGUNKARIA
Spanish judge extends provisional closure for another six months.
Egunkaria's workers promise 'a new journal.
Spanish Judge Juan del Olmo, from the Audiencia Nacional Court, decided on Monday evening to extend the provisional closure of Egunkaria.
According to Del Olmo, the Egunkaria newspaper (and the related companies Egunkaria SA and Egunkaria Sortzen SL) will not be opened for at least another six months. In addition, their accounts will be blocked for the same period of time. Furthermore the six people sent to prison have still not been released.
The Spanish Judge should have held a hearing ten days ago but he took the mentioned decisions without holding the hearing and now that the hearing has taken place Del Olmo confirms all the measures taken the previous days aimed to kill the newspaper, without any change.
According to Del Olmo Judge, " Egunkaria newspaper has been created and supported by ETA which controls the management of the newspaper and so his director and executives may be considered as belonging to a terrorist organization." .
Some of the documentary evidence he provides are such as public and official information taken in shareholder's meeting in 1993.
The magistrate's decision did not come as a surprise to Egunkaria's workers. Egunkaria's spokesperson, Joan Mari Larrarte, stated that the extension of the provisional closure has effectively condemned Egunkaria to death.
"Considering how things have developed since February 20th and the previous experience with Egin (a Basque paper shut down by Judge Garzon in 1998 and closed ever since), we suspected that the doors would remain closed".
However, Larrarte announced that a new journal will be born from Egunkaria's ashes. "They have closed Egunkaria, but Egunkaria's principles are alive and well and we will follow them in order to create the newspaper that the Basque Country demands and is waiting for. We will be putting all our efforts into this new project", said Larrarte.
Thursday, March 13, 2003
Well, here you have a prime example, I found this article published a year ago, roughly. The propaganda starts right at the beginning with the word "separatism", it follows blindly what the propaganda generated in Madrid wants you to believe, that the Basque Country has always been a part of Spain. The truth is, the Basque Country (then known as the Kingdom of Navarre) was a sovereign and independent political entity for over 800 years by the time it was conquered by Spain and France. So what the Basques pursue is not separatism but independence, the one they once enjoyed. So the correct title should be "The art of Basque independentism".
Here you have it:
The art of Basque separatism
May 22, 2002 Posted: 6:24 AM EDT (1024 GMT)
By Paul Sussman, CNN.com writer
LONDON, England (CNN) -- For most people, the issue of Basque separatism is inextricably bound up with the violent activities of secessionist group ETA.
While the latter makes its point with bombs and guns, however, a very different assertion of Basque identity is to be found in the world of art.
Pablo Picasso's painting Guernica, one of the great masterpieces of modern art, is for many Basques the supreme symbol of their struggle for nationhood.
"It is the most ubiquitous painting in reproduction form in the Basque country," says Juan Vidarte, director of the Guggenheim Art Museum, Bilbao. "It's everywhere, from modern apartments to traditional farm houses."
Picasso painted the huge black and white, oil-on-canvas mural in 1937 in response to the bombing of the northern Spanish town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39).
Spanish town? Paul Sussman is talking about then Basques yet Gernika is a Spanish town? Talk about bias.
The attack, on April 26, 1937, was carried out by German warplanes at the request of nationalist leader General Francisco Franco, and was one of the first instances of saturation bombing being used against a specifically non-military target.
The town was all-but destroyed during the raid, and an estimated 1,500 civilians killed, although the precise death toll has never been firmly established.
Paul Sussman puts the figure of the death toll in doubt, I invite him to try that one on the six million figure of the Jewish people killed during the Holocaust.
The outrage carried particular resonance for the Basque people because of Guernica's status as their ancient capital.
It was here, beneath the giant Oak of Guernica, that they held their annual assembly, and here that successive generations of Spanish kings had, since medieval times, sworn to guarantee Basque autonomy.
The town's destruction, as immortalised in Picasso's painting, thus came to symbolize not merely a human tragedy, but a specifically Basque one.
"The painting has enormous importance for the Basque people," says Vidarte, "Not only in artistic terms, but in social, historical and political ones too."
A gift of the Basque country
The painting's symbolism has been heightened by the fact that, although it portrays one of the key incidents in modern Basque history, it has never actually been displayed in the Basque country.
Picasso painted it in Paris, where he was living at the time, producing initial sketches on May 1, 1937, and, despite its huge size (349.3 cms by 776.6 cms), completing the final canvas by June 4.
It was first displayed in the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris World Fair of 1937, where it attracted huge attention, and was subsequently lodged with the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where Picasso insisted it remain until the fall of Franco's regime.
It was finally returned to Spain in September 1981 (Franco had died in 1975). Rather than going to the Basque country, however, it was placed first in the Prado Museum in Madrid, and then Madrid's La Reina Sofia museum.
"Picasso gave the painting to the whole Spanish people and not just the Basques," says Picasso expert Elizabeth Cowling, of the University of Edinburgh. "It's not something he thought of as a particularly sectarian work of art.
"Although it relates to a specific event it was for him a painting about the Spanish civil war in general."
What an idiot this Elizabeth Cowling is, the Basques are not Spaniards, what does she mean the whole Spanish people, is she Scottish or English?. And judging from the other stuff she says one can tell immediately that she is in the payroll of some former Francoist junta member from Madrid.
Despite this, the Basques have always regarded the work as a part of their own heritage, and have campaigned ceaselessly to have it returned to northern Spain.
"The painting is a gift of the Basque country to the world," says Vidarte, whose request for the work to be loaned to the Guggenheim for its opening in 1997 was rejected. "It would be a very historical moment for the painting to come back to the Basque country, to its place of origin."
The fact that it remains in Madrid is seen by many Basques as a further example of Spanish repression, and the issue of its return has thus become linked with the wider issue of Basque independence.
"The painting has become deeply imbued with the idea of Basque separatism," says Cowling.
I rest my case about this Cowling character, she is just plain biased against the Basque people.
Whether it will ever be displayed in the Basque country, if only on temporary loan, is uncertain.
"We will request it again," says Vidarte, "Although at the moment, because of the political climate, it is not the best of times.
"We hope they will let us have it eventually, though. It would be a nice gesture, and would make the Basque people very happy."
AI Index: EUR 41/003/2003 (Public)
News Service No: 055
11 March 2003
Spain: Only adequate safeguards will end torture, and claims of torture
As the Spanish government announced that it was taking legal action against four directors of a Basque-language newspaper for "falsely" accusing Civil Guards of acts of torture, Amnesty International today publicly called on the authorities to ensure the prompt, impartial and thorough investigation of the torture allegations.
The claims were made by detainees held incommunicado in connection with the "precautionary closure", in February, of the newspaper Euskaldunon Egunkaria. Amnesty International, which opposes the use of incommunicado detention on the grounds that it facilitates torture, is also deeply concerned by disturbing new legislative proposals to extend the incommunicado regime.
"To sue alleged torture victims, or to describe allegations as false even before there has been a chance to carry out a thorough investigation will only help foster and nourish a climate of impunity, in which fear of reprisals prevents the reporting of possible acts of torture," Amnesty International said.
The Spanish government declared on Monday that it had lodged a complaint with the National Court, in which it accused Martxelo Otamendi Egiguren and three other newspaper directors of "collaborating with an armed band" (the Basque armed group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, ETA) by making torture claims as part of an ETA- inspired strategy to undermine democratic institutions.
In a letter sent to the Spanish government on Monday -- hours before the Spanish government's announcement -- Amnesty International had expressed concern about reports that Martxelo Otamendi, and other detainees, had been subjected to use of the "bolsa" (asphyxiation with a plastic bag), exhausting physical exercises, threats and simulated execution - forms of torture which, by their very nature, are not easily proved, but which, once alleged, require serious and impartial investigation, whether or not a formal complaint of torture has been brought.
In its letter the organization had also expressed strong reservations about Government statements threatening legal action.
"The Government knows what it must do to guard against false complaints: introduce greater safeguards for detainees that would, at the same time, help protect law enforcement officers from malicious accusations," Amnesty International said.
"Amnesty International does not believe that torture is systematic in Spain, but the Government must resist the temptation of regarding all torture allegations as part of some ETA-inspired strategy".
The organization added that it was irresponsible to categorically deny the existence of torture or ill-treatment when the Government has so far failed to provide any substantive response to the "profound concern" expressed last November by the (UN) Committee against Torture about the incommunicado regime. The Committee made recommendations which, were they to be adopted by the Government, would make it more difficult to bring false accusations.
"Far from taking steps to implement the Committee's recommendations, the Spanish authorities are planning to extend to a maximum of 13 days the period under which some persons may be held incommunicado once an order of provisional imprisonment has been made," Amnesty International stressed.
On 20 November 2002, Amnesty International called on the Spanish government to take immediate steps to implement the recommendations of the (UN) Committee against Torture, which expressed "deep concern" that people can be held in incommunicado detention for up to five days. While aware of the difficulties for a government facing "grave and frequent acts of criminal violence and terrorism", the Committee stated that torture and ill-treatment were facilitated by the incommunicado regime. The Committee recommended that police (and Civil Guard) interrogations in general be recorded on video as a means both of protecting the detainees and officers who could be falsely accused of torture. The video recordings would have to be made available to the competent judge. The Committee also recommended that medical examinations of detainees in incommunicado detention be held jointly by an (officially appointed) forensic doctor and a doctor who had the trust of the detainees.
Amnesty International itself has repeatedly called for the abrogation of Articles 520 bis and 527 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which govern the incommunicado regime. It believes that the current, restricted legal safeguards are inadequate, and has called for the right of access to a lawyer from the outset of detention and the right to talk to the lawyer in private.
On 25 February 2003 Amnesty International called for the closure of Euskaldunon Egunkaria to be investigated promptly and noted that one of those detained, Pello Zubíria, had reportedly attempted suicide while being held incommunicado.
Amnesty International's fears about the continuing existence of the incommunicado regime have been exacerbated by a draft law, produced in January 2003, reforming the Code of Criminal Procedure with regard to provisional imprisonment. Article 509 of the draft law provides that the investigating judge or court can extend incommunicado detention beyond the current five-day maximum for some persons against whom a judge has made a provisional imprisonment order. On this basis a person could be held incommunicado - first on police or Civil Guard premises and, after five days, in prison - for a total of as much as 13 days.
Monday, March 10, 2003
Here you have the article:
Pello Zubiria, sent to prison
His relatives asked the Basque institutions to do the intermediation work in order to obtain Zubiria's conditional freedom
Pello Zubiria, former Egunkaria's director and Argia's co-director, was moved from Gregorio Marañon Hospital to Soto del Real prison last Friday (7th of March). Zubiria was moved from hospital when his wife, Malores Etxeberria, was going to visit him as every day. Even though they passed each other on the corridor, Etxeberria didn´t get permission to see her husband. They didn´t explain her either he was going to be sent to Soto del Real infirmary or to a common corridor.
In a press note made public last Friday by Argia it was denounced the way Zubiria was sent to prison because even permission for his wife to see him was denied. In addition to this, and due to an illness Zubiria suffers called Ankylosing Spondylitis, they informed that his imprisonment could have disastrous consequences. For that reason, "his family makes again the call to the Basque institutions and to the groups and institutions related to human rights to do the intermediation work in order to obtain Pello Zubiria's conditional freedom".
In last Wednesday's (5th of March) press conference Malores Etxeberria informed that Zubiria was getting better of the Pneumonia he was taken of, but that the condition of his Ankylosing Spondylitis was getting worse. In the same press conference, the family's doctor Marta Barandiaran explained that Pello Zubiria hasn't got the appropriate condition to be sent to prison. She said "the illness he suffers affects mainly his spine, but also his knees, his ankles and his fingers' joints, so his life is highly limited". She informed that his bones are also "very fragile" because suffers of Osteoporosis.
The Spaniards are always playing the victims in the political conflict with the Basques, now you see how inhumane they can be.
Sunday, March 09, 2003
The text you are about to read talks about this Apartheid-like campaign:
Many Basque organizations, businesses and media had been closed or prosecutedbefore
This is not the first time that a Basque newspaper has been closed by a Spanish judge. Since Aznar´s Popular Party came to power in 1996, many Basque political or cultural organizations, businesses and media have been closed, declared illegal or prosecuted due to alleged ties with terrorism. The vast majority of these cases lead nowhere, are never even brought to court, and serve only to publicly discredit pro-Basque organizations.
This is not by no means exhaustive of those actions:
a.. AEK (Organization that works in the field of Basque language teaching and adult literacy. They have taught the ancient Basque language to thousands of citizens.) AEK was accused in 1998 of being part of the ETA's alleged "business network". A report by the judge-appointed administrator concluded there were no irregularities in AEK's management, and that the accusations made by the judge Baltasar Garzón were unfounded. At the end of 2001, the judge was forced to desist in his attempts to prove a link between ETA and the organization AEK.
b.. Egin and Egin Irratia (newspaper and radio station of the independence movement) were accused by judge Baltasar Garzón in 1998 of being part of ETA and were closed without trial. In 2001, the Fourth Section of the Penal Court decided to drop the main charges of "membership in an armed organization"; without this accusation, the preventive closing of a media organization is not possible. Five years later, however, both media outlets are still closed pending trial.
c.. The EKIN case (movement for the independence of the Basque Country): in 2000 the judge Baltasar Garzón accused this movement and four other groups to be part of ETA and declared them illegal, arresting 20 people. However, by December 20001 all of the people that were arrested in this case had been released on bail. Moreover, the Fourth Circuit of the National Court issued a decree ruling that these people had been held in prison for a year without sufficient evidence, once again discrediting Garzón's investigative work.
d.. Ardi Beltza (A magazine specializing in investigative journalism). The judge Garzón decreed in 2001 the closure of the magazine and imprisonment of its editor Pepe Rei. But Garzón received another setback when the Spanish National Court decided to release the editor Pepe Rei. In spite of all, the magazine is still closed.
e.. Zabaltzen (Basque book and music distribution business): In 2001, Garzón issued warrants to search the main offices of the company. Some months later the judge had to abandon this investigation.
f.. Haika (Basque youth movement for independence): In 2001 it was declared illegal by judge Garzón.
g.. Askatasuna (Movement in support of the rights of Basque prisoners): In 2001 Garzón declared illegal this movement too, and arrested 13 people.
h.. Batasuna (Political Party supporting the independence of the Basque Country; they get about 15% of the votes in Basque polls and many mayors belong to this party): In 2002 the judge Garzón decreed the suspension of all their activities under the accusation of being part of ETA.
What we find behind all these actions is that the Spanish Government is trying to take advantage of the Spanish people's rejection of the so called terrorism of ETA. By linking the Basque political and cultural movement with violence, Mr. Aznar's Government usually obtains electoral benefits in Spain, since it projects an image of firmness against terrorism. Most of these cases are eventually abandoned due to a lack of legal foundations, but often the damage caused to the people and organizations involved is irreversible. Arrests and searches are usually accompanied by extensive media coverage, but when the detainees are subsequently released and the charges are dropped, there is usually no mention of this in the media.
Besides, these political/police/judicial operations do not usually happen by chance. They always take place just before an election, or when the Government intends to adopt an unpopular measure, such as the "medicamentazo" (a decree that eliminates government health-care coverage for a large number of prescription-drugs), the "decretazo" (a decree that eliminates some of the fundamental rights of workers, and makes dismissal easier and cheaper for employers). It is not just by chance, then, that the actions taken against Egunkaria have occurred just when the Government of the PP (Popular Party) is going through its most delicate moment since coming to power, with everyone's eyes set on the ecological disaster caused by the Prestige oil spill and on the Spain's support for the upcoming war on Iraq.
Regarding the former, most of the Spanish people think that the disaster of the Prestige could have been much smaller and that in fact it was aggravated by the Popular Party's negligence, as was shown by the massive demonstration organized by the Galician platform "Nunca Máis" that took the streets of Madrid on February 23rd. As to the war, an overwhelming majority of the Spanish people is against an attack on Iraq: organizations, political parties and media are pressing the Spanish Government relentlessly on this issue, and they have it on the defensive. On February 15th, the marches against the war organized in Madrid and Barcelona gathered one million people each.
International experts agree that the actions of the Spanish Government and the Spanish judges can hardly be tolerated in a democratic state. Former Italian president Francesco Cossiga, for example, has declared several times that "since Franco's dictatorship and the nazi regime, this is the first time that the Spanish authorities have created a situation like this" or that the "PP's actions are antidemocratic and violate people's rights".
We cannot forget that although Mr. Aznar's Popular Party tries to situate itself in the center, it is the political heir to the Franco regime. The party's president and founder, Mr. Manuel Fraga, was the Minister for Information and Tourism as well as Home Minister during the Franco dictatorship. In the PP's web page (web del PP ) you can read that a "group of people met with Mr. Manuel Fraga Iribarne, in the need to create and articulate a reformist and centrist organization, in order to offer an alternative after Franco's death". Even Mr. Aznar himself and many of his ministers and party leaders are members of well-known francoist families. To read more about this, please visit here.
With respect to the Egunkaria case, apart from the difficult moment the PP is going through right now, we should highlight the fact that the Home Ministry and the National Court published a joint press release to explain the operation taken against Egunkaria. This action is a clear violation of the principle of separation of powers, as has been denounced in several quarters. There are two other remarkable facts about the case against Egunkaria. On one hand, the decade-old documents upon which the accusation is based are the very same that were used to shut down the Egin daily, only now the judge interprets them to refer to Egunkaria and not to Egin. On the other hand, the judge Garzon previously abandoned the idea of taking judicial actions against Egunkaria, having considering groundless the same police report that judge Del Olmo now uses as the foundation of his case.